Updated: Apr 4
Listening has become a forgotten skill in our society today. Deep, intentional listening is not easy and it takes patience and lots of practice. We are more skilled at expressing ourselves verbally and airing our views. When it comes to family relationships, misunderstandings often arise because we are not really listening to one another. Family relationships break down when we are not consciously trying to hear what the other person is saying.
We need to learn how to quieten down our voices and improve on our listening skills so we can connect with others on a deeper level.
With regards to our teens and young adults, when we deliberately hold back our words and intentionally listen in, this communicates value to them as we show interest in who they are and what they have to say. We expect them to listen to us with respect. However, it starts with how we build trust and respect so we invite more conversation.
For connection, it takes a paradigm shift in how we communicate effectively with others. There is a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 8:8b
Ways to deepen listening skills:
1. Listen with your eyes
A wonderful skill to practice is to make eye contact and pay close attention to understanding facial expressions and body language. Take note of changes in voice tone, eye movements, shoulders drooping, hand motions and other cues that show mood and feelings. Be sensitive to changes in mood which is a signal to stop and try something different. There is normally a reason why teens or young adults push away from parents. It may be that they need some space and your timing to have a certain conversation needs to be reconsidered.
Phones are becoming a big problem as people are communicating with one another with their heads down or their eyes on a screen. Often parents are to blame and kids pick up bad habits so parents need to set boundaries with regards to using phones at certain times and making time for family gatherings and meal times without phone distractions.
Changes in body language and facial expressions alert parents to respond appropriately and to reassess the situation when needed.
2. Listen without speaking
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I often ponder over this Bible verse in the book of James. It is so wonderfully wise! When we are quick to listen, then our focus is on listening and when we are focused on listening, we are less inclined to be thinking of what we want to say. As a result, we are less likely to get angry because our focus is on understanding and empathizing as we practice active listening. Deep, intentional listening helps us to keep calm, more controlled, avoid misunderstandings and prevents the conversation from getting out of hand.
When we have spent time listening intently, we are more likely to choose our words more carefully as we speak with more understanding and empathy. We are less likely to speak words of regret that show ignorance and lack of attention. When we are slow to speak, then we interrupt less. Allowing our teens to speak is a powerful gift we can give to them as we show how valuable and significant they are in our lives.
I often need to tell myself to “shut up.”
"Allowing others to speak is a powerful gift. I call "listening" the forgotten love language."
3. Listen without advising/problem solving
We like to give our opinions and solve problems so when we listen, we often listen with these things in mind. Most often, our teens do not want a solution or want to hear our opinion; they just want us to listen. Therefore it is important to feel the waters in the conversation so that your teen will feel free to share more openly. A listening ear speaks volumes over your point of view or expertise.
Ask for your teens opinion. "What do you think we should do son?" "How do you think this will work?" "Do you have any other ideas?"
In some situations, it may be better to ask permission to give your advise.
"Can I give you some suggestions?"
In this kind of dialog, you are inviting relationship! You are showing that you value your teens input and that he /she has something worthwhile to offer. You are communicating that you trust your teen for his/her ideas and this boosts confidence levels. As deeper connections are made through trust and respectful dialog, teens and young adults will be more willing to listen to advise, be more open to share their ideas or ask for your advise.
When you invite relationship by asking questions, you actually do get to share advise and problem solve as your teen is more open to hearing your ideas. It`s all about knowing how to connect first!
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11
4. Listen with questions(but not to interrogate)
When teens act up, sometimes that indicates there is an issue or situation that you haven’t heard about yet and their actions are communicating pain and frustration. Asking questions first will avoid making false assumptions, jumping to conclusions or lecturing. This only does more harm and furthers the gap in relationships.
"What" and "How" questions are safer to use than "why" questions as why questions can portray judgement and disapproval. For example: "How did that work out for you?" as opposed to "Why did you do that?"
Stay focused on understanding what your teen is communicating and then ask questions to clarify. Instead, parents normally focus on the teens attitude without understanding first and this ends up in an argument. Ask, "Could you please clarify what you meant when you said..........?" "I am a little confused about what is making you speak to me like that right now. What else is going on?"
To clarify before you respond: Ask: "What do you mean by .....?"
Another way to avoid misunderstandings, is to repeat back what your teen is communicating to you so you make sure you are understanding. "Let me see if I understand you correctly. So you are saying that........"
There is also a time to ask questions and a time to not ask questions. Too many questions may sound like interrogating and your child may get on the defensive. All these skills go hand in hand and there may be times when just keeping quiet and listening is all you need to do. Watch for clues and try and be empathetic.
"Rest your voice. Lean in."
5. Listen Long
Always listen and keep listening long, regardless.
If you have a "drama queen," be thankful that she is sharing with you. She`s trying to process her emotions to make sense of the world, so be her sounding board. As she processes with you and self-reflects, she`s gaining a healthier self awareness of who she is and what she needs to do in her situation.
Or you may have a teen son who says and does goofy things. Thank God for different personalities and an opportunity to learn about yourself and him, and how you can better connect with him.
Regardless of character or situations, listening is about relationship and connecting on a deeper level so your child feels heard and understood.
When we actively listen, we focus on the other person; and not on our own agenda ( and our need to control); we dedicate our full attention to hearing their heart and their point of view and most importantly, we invite relationship and deeper conversation. Otherwise we will be missing out on future relationships and we don`t want to have regrets when our young adults leave home.
Listening is a powerful expression of love!
Wouldn't you want to be the kind of parent who your child wants to talk to and who leans into your wisdom after leaving home?
Coaching students in healthier mindsets towards resilient confidence and responsible independence and partnering with parents to create harmony at home and good family communication.
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Coaching "draws out" potential and deep listening. "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out." Proverbs 20:5